As my friends and colleagues will readily attest, I have been talking for some time [read: far too much!] about the “disappearance of the middle”. As I reflected on my half century [plus] of life here in Canada, it is truly one of the most compelling trends that I have witnessed. The decline of the middle class, the dismantling of many once vibrant community clubs and churches, and the disappearance of many medium sized businesses, have caused me to confidently pronounce that you need to be “boutique” or “big box” if want to succeed, or even survive, in this new era. In other words, it was Mayday for the middle.
Perhaps it is fitting that my wake up call would come from the Bay, one of Canada’s most iconic and storied department stores. Even as I was pronouncing that I wouldn’t want to be them (especially after the demise of that other iconic Canadian department store!), I found myself listening to radio ads by Bonnie Brooks (CEO) and returning to the Bay to seek out the featured items. (By the way, I love my Hudson Room™ dress shirts and the HBC Collections!)
Ms. Brooks, I mean Bonnie, started me thinking that focusing on the “disappearance of the middle” had caused me to entirely overlook the “emergence of the new middle”. I now realize that the Bay is an exciting and inspiring example of this new middle. The Bay is bringing a renewed focus in Canadian retail to the fact that value is much more than price (its gauntlet to the big box). Equally interesting is the Bay’s challenge, to the boutique value proposition, that price is an integral, and vitally important, element of value. While there are stormy seas ahead in Canadian retail, I am confident that the Bay has the right captain at its wheel.
In my planned series of posts, I will be exploring the themes of the new middle and value and their significance for professional services, including commons sourcing. I look forward to having you along for this journey and would certainly welcome your feedback along the way. And as a special thank you to Bonnie and the Bay. I proclaim today (and each day of this series) to be Bay Day and encourage you to literally “buy in” to this innovative force in Canadian retail!